Iberia from 1450-present

Present-day Spain & Portugal


Before 1469, Spain was divided into multiple kingdoms

In 1469, King Ferdinand of Aragon married Queen Isabella of Castile

Partially unified Spain

In 1478, Ferdinand & Isabella launched the Spanish Inquisition, a government program intended to attack all non-Catholics

Through Spanish Inquisition, they conquered Muslim Kingdom of Granada in 1492

Thus, Spain was completely unified under Catholic rule. End of Spanish Inquisition

  • Many Jews came to Spain as France & England expelled all their Jews

    • Jews were really good in business

    • High Jewish population led to many Anti-Semitic programs to expel the Jews

    • Most Jews converted, but Spanish Catholics believed they weren't pure Catholics (they still had "Jewish blood")

      • Thus, 75% of Jews in Spain fled​

  • Isabella & Ferdinand's daughter married King of Netherlands & Holy Roman Empire, so their son, Charles V or Habsburgs, had a huge inherited realm (Spain, Netherlands, Germany, etc.)

Spanish Armada (1588)

King Philip II of Spain married Mary of Tudor, hoping to make England Catholic

This plan ended when Mary of Tudor was assassinated by Anglicans

Another Mary, Queen of Scotland, (a Catholic) had another opportunity to kill Elizabeth. She was Elizabeth's cousin

English troops easily defeated Spanish armada, forcing them to retaliate

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Philip II then sent navy troops (Spanish Armada) to England to restore Catholicism there (1588)

Elizabeth imprisoned Mary of Scotland, and English later executed Mary of Scotland

Causes of Exploration

  • State-sponsored exploration was very common

    • States wanted glory for their nation, so they sponsored voyages of exploration​

  • States wanted to spread Christianity

    • After Spanish reconquista, where they Spanish conquered all non-Catholic kingdoms in Iberia, they wanted to spread Catholicism throughout the world

    • Other Protestant nations wanted to spread their denomination of Christianity

  • Technological innovations made travel easy

    • New ships (caravel, carrack, fluyt) made travel easier as they were sturdier & could withstand rough winds

    • Lateen sail (triangle-shaped) could catch winds on both sides

    • Sternpost rudder helps with maneuverability

    • Astrolabe determines latitude

    • Magnetic compass determines direction

    • Barometer determines air pressure & can detect a storm

    • Other innovations in deciphering wind currents helped sailors take advantage of wind currents

  • Rivalries among European nations sparked exploration

    • European nations wanted to conquer more land than others


First Explorers

  • Portugal started European exploration

    • It's unique location (facing westward into Atlantic & blocked eastward by Spain) made it necessary for Portuguese to expand westward

    • Prince Henry (Henry the Navigator) sponsored voyages down the African west coast

    • Portuguese built trading posts on African west coast & forged alliances with African kingdoms

    • Conquered many African islands in the Atlantic

    • Bartholomew Diaz sailed around Southern Tip of Africa in 1488 but returned immediately to Portugal

    • In 1497, Vasco da Gama sailed around the Southern Tip of Africa to India & came back to Portugal with lots of spices

  • Christopher Columbus sailed westward to Americas in 1492

    • Sponsored by Spanish, sought a westward route to Asia

    • Landed in Bahamas, thought it was Japan

    • Confiscated gold from local Taíno people & enslaved them

    • Sent letters to Spain, Rapidly spread news about the land

    • Still believed the land he found to be Japan or China

  • In 1497, Amerigo Vespucci sailed to Brazil & realized that the land is a New World & isn't Asia

    • Thus, the New World was named America after him

  • Spain wanted a sea route to Maluku spice islands of Southeast Asia, so they employed Ferdinand Magellan

    • In 1519, Magellan sailed through a strait in the tip of South America (now named after him) & died after a physical argument in the Philippines​

    • His crew returned to Spain in 1522

  • Spain continued its expansion in the Americas as it was jealous of Portuguese success in India

  • Jacques Cartier sailed for France & landed in Montreal

    • Traded beaver fur with natives & acquired lots of fish

      • Fish was popular as other meat was prohibited by Church on special days


List of Explorers



Year of Journey


Bartholomew Dias



First to round the Cape of Good Hope (Southern tip of Africa). Returned home immediately afterward. 

Christopher Columbus



First to land in Americas. Landed in Caribbean islands. Thought they were some islands near Japan. 

Vasco da Gama



First to sail to India. Sailed around the Cape of Good Hope to India. Returned to Portugal with lots of spices. 

Amerigo Vespucci



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Sailed to South America. First to realize new land is not Asia & is instead a new continent. Named America after Amerigo. 

Pedro Alvares Cabral



Discovered Brazil, made claims for Portugal there. 

Ponce de Leon



Explored present-day Florida, made claims for Spain there. 

Vasco Nuñez de Balboa



Explored Panama. Found Pacific Ocean when traveling overland from Panama.  

Ferdinand Magellan



First to circumnavigate the world. Sailed through a strait near tip of South America. Died in Philippines, his crew returned to Spain.

Colonial Expansion

Conquest of Aztecs

In 1519, Hernan Cortes led Spanish army into Mexico. Entered Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. 

Cortes allied with local tribe leaders that resented Aztec rule

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Smallpox aided Cortes as the native Aztecs weren't immune to it, so many Aztecs died, allowing Cortes to easily take over. 

Cortes led an army into Tenochtitlan & killed Aztec leader Montezuma (1520)

Cortes plundered Tenochtitlan, starved the city to death. Fully took over in 1521. 

Conquest of Incas

In 1532, Francisco Pizarro led Spanish army into Peru

Called all Inca rulers under pretext of a conference. Seized & killed them all except for Inca ruler, Atahualpa

Seized all of Atahualpa's gold, then killed him. Later seized all of Cusco's gold

Allied with local tribal leaders that resented Inca rule. Also used loss of authority from the existing civil war between ruling brothers Atahualpa & Huascar to seize power. Smallpox also helped him kill the Incas

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Consolidated control by 1540. Conquered last corner of Inca empire by 1572

Spanish & Portuguese Colonialism

  • Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) set rules for Spanish & Portuguese colonization

    • An imaginary line was drawn in Atlantic Ocean: Spain could have all lands west, Portugal could have all lands east​

  • Spain had direct rule over its colonies from the Spanish Crown

    • Two viceroyalties: New Spain (Mexico), New Castile (Peru)

    • Viceroy was Spanish representative to the colonies & governed all colonial affairs

    • Audiencia was a council below the viceroy that would support him & report any power abuses to the king

    • Corregidores were local governors that would govern local affairs in parts of colonies

  • Spanish had many innovative labor systems

    • Established encomienda system, where Spanish encomendores would look after indigenous American laborers in exchange for giving them shelter & food

    • Later used hacienda system, where indigenous laborers would work on Spanish plantations

    • In Mit'a system, each village would send 1/7 of its men to Spanish silver mines to work

    • Many indigenous Americans died of overwork

  • Spanish dominated silver trade in Americas

    • Had two silver mines: Zacatecas (Mexico), Potosí (Peru)

    • Would use indigenous & slave labor to work in them

    • Manila galleons would transport silver from Mexico to Philippines, where Spanish would sell them to China for Chinese luxury goods

  • Due to high silver production, Spain had severe inflation

    • Spanish expelled Muslims & Jews during reconquista, which were its best businessmen, which caused Spanish economy to decline​

    • As silver in New World declined, Spain had severe inflation & lost its influence in the New World

    • Spain's wealthy landowners raised rent, causing peasants to leave, leading to lower agricultural production

    • Spanish kings didn't care much about the internal problems, leading to a decline in Spanish power

    • Spain lost Franco-Spanish War & signed Treaty of Pyrenees (1659), giving all extensive territories to France

    • Spain recognized Portuguese independence in 1688

  • Portugal also had direct rule from Portuguese crown

    • Would give land grants to Portuguese nobles to settle in the New World to established Portuguese presence

  • Spanish & Portuguese established Christianity in New World

    • Many Dominican, Franciscan, Jesuit missionaries came

    • Virgin of Guadalupe became a symbol of Christianity in Mexico

      • Formed as Virgin Mary appeared on a hill near Mexico City

    • Some missionaries learned about American native culture to better understand how to teach them Christianity

Columbian Exchange

  • Exchange of goods, animals, crops, and diseases from Afro-Eurasia to the Americas
    • First time the ecosystems of Americas & Afro-Eurasia were connected

    • Potatoes, maize, squash, tomatoes went from Americas to Afro-Eurasia

      • Led to enriched diet & population growth in Afro-Eurasia

    • Livestock, fruits, sugarcane, disease went from Afro-Eurasia to Americas

  • Disease was one of the most influential things that went from Afro-Eurasia to Americas

    • Indigenous peoples of Americas weren't immune to European diseases → Died in large numbers

    • Whooping cough, smallpox, measles all killed majority of indigenous American population


War of Spanish Succession (1701-1713)

  • Charles II of Spain died & his successor, Philip of Anjou, was grandson of Louis XIV

  • A previous treaty said Spain would be divided among France & Holy Roman Empire after Charles II's death
  • English, Dutch, Austrians, Prussians formed Grand Alliance against Louis XIV as they hated the prospect of an alliance between Spain & France

  • Treaty of Utrecht (1713) said Philip of Anjou can inherit throne but can't combine with France

    • France also lost many territories to Britain​

Napoleon conquered Spain in 1808, made it a French satellite as part of the Grand Empire

After Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), dictator Franco Francisco took power